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The Spark - October 2022
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Mornings have turned cool, but afternoons are still pretty toasty, which means Lost and Found boxes everywhere are overflowing with coats and sweatshirts. :-) But seriously, it’s fall in Colorado, and I know you are all working incredibly hard to support your students to ensure they have a successful year.
We are also super busy at the Colorado Department of Education. Last month we released our preliminary school and district frameworks for the first time since the pandemic began.
Each year when we release the frameworks I get questions about the purpose of our frameworks, and I hear concerns about the accountability system in general. I thought I’d use this space to share about the purpose of our accountability system, and why I think it’s a useful and important part of Colorado’s public school system.
I see the state accountability system as a high-level, 35,000-foot view of how things are going academically in schools and districts, similar to when you have a yearly check up with a doctor. At the doctor’s office, you get a few tests based on a clear standard (temperature, blood pressure) and those few tests help you know the general progress of the system. But we know there are many, many more pieces of information that can show a more nuanced view – including information on academics, social-emotional learning, climate and culture. For our role at the state level, the annual check-up shows us who needs more support and who we can learn from.
The Accountability Act requires the department every year to produce the annual “check-ups” or frameworks, which include achievement on state assessments, growth on assessments from year to year, and postsecondary measures like high school graduation rates and college enrollment. The performance frameworks give district and school leadership, parents, community members and taxpayers information that provides insight into school and district performance to help them support students from their unique roles.
The preliminary school frameworks released last month will be presented to the State Board of Education later this year for final approval. The board reviews the frameworks after districts have a chance to request reconsideration of their rating. After the board approves the ratings, they will be publicly posted on CDE’s website. If you check out the frameworks on the website now, you will see information from 2019, which is the last year we calculated frameworks before they were paused during the pandemic.
The system, enacted by the legislature in 2009, has a long record of success identifying schools and districts that need support and providing state and federal resources to resolve the sometimes systemic problems.
In 2010, for example, 23 districts received one of the two lowest ratings in the state’s accountability system, which means they were on the “accountability clock.” After five years “on the clock,” districts and schools must come before the State Board of Education for a hearing that results in the board directing an improvement plan. However, with targeted support and resources – and great work by educators and school and district leaders – 19 of those districts with the lowest ratings in 2010 had improved enough to come off the clock by 2019.
I understand some view the accountability frameworks as uncomfortable, unfair or incomplete. I’ve struggled with these issues and our role as a state. After years of processing and seeing the impact first hand, I believe the transparency and support created by the accountability system provides critical information that leads to real improvement for students.
I am in this work because I truly believe every child can succeed in school when they have the right support. While no system is perfect, I believe our accountability system plays an important role. The system grounds us in data based on the same set of common measurements directly tied to the Colorado Academic Standards. If we can all consider the frameworks with a growth mindset, we can focus not on any failures but use the information as a springboard to learn and grow. And empowered with information, we can work together to achieve our collective mission of ensuring all students throughout Colorado have access to a high quality education.
Last month was a milestone of sorts for the first Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act -- the multibillion-dollar federal Coronavirus relief fund that was enacted in March 2020.
The grant officially closed on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, when all the money was to be used.
Also known as ESSER I, the grant was created to address the immediate health and operational challenges of educating students during the pandemic. Colorado received a total of $121 million from ESSER I and was required to allocate 90% of that or roughly $109 million to districts and set aside another 10% or $12 million for state activities.
ESSER I helped districts pay for a myriad of endeavors such as activities to provide remote education, re-open schools as quickly as possible, improve air quality, make facility repairs, purchase technology, buy supplies for sanitation, provide mental health support, address learning loss, provide summer school and afterschool programs and other activities necessary to continue school operations and employment of staff.
Districts used the funds in meaningful ways to support their students and staff. For example, Academy 20 School District in Colorado Springs, established a local school food bank for its students’ families. The ESSER I funds bought food, shelving, cabinets, bags, and paid for delivery fees for groceries so that students received food services even during school closures.
Jefferson County School District used ESSER I funds to pay for translation services to communicate updates about COVID safety policies in more than 130 different languages in the district.
The Southern Ute tribe spent ESSER I funds to buy mobile internet hotspots to increase or boost internet service so students at home could receive an online education.
Today, the threat of COVID-19 is not as dire as in the spring of 2020. Impacts of the pandemic remain, but the speed at which the nation and the state came together to help schools address the immediate health and operational challenges to educate the nation’s children as the world was shutting down should never be forgotten.
ESSER I preceded two other ESSER funds for schools. Ultimately, Colorado received a total of $1.8 billion in federal pandemic recovery funds to support students, families and educators. You can learn more about how Colorado used its ESSER funding on the CDE website.
CDE recently released the state’s preliminary school and district transitional frameworks after a two-year pause due to the pandemic.
The number of districts with top three plan types – Distinction, Performance and Improvement – showed an overall decline from prior years. Conversely, the bottom two plan types – Priority Improvement and Turnaround – saw an increase. This may change after districts participate in the request to reconsider process. Districts and schools are eligible for request to reconsider if they meet the 90% total participation rate. Because schools and districts cannot automatically advance or exit Performance Watch, the request to reconsider is a way for schools to adjust their accountability clock status if their plan type has improved.
This year’s preliminary results showed more schools and districts receiving the designation of Insufficient State Data, which is when there is not enough reportable data to assign a rating to a school or district. This occurred mainly in smaller systems. Due to the two-year pause, CDE could not run the three-year review typically used for small systems. Some schools and districts also experienced low participation on state tests and did not have enough reportable data.
The performance frameworks, part of the state’s accountability system, are calculated using statewide data on academic growth, academic achievement and postsecondary and workforce readiness metrics including graduation, dropout and matriculation rates.
Typically, school and district frameworks are released every year and are used to accredit school districts and assign school plan types. However, the pandemic caused the state to pause the calculation and release of performance frameworks for two school years – 2020-21 and 2021-22. For both those years, school plan types were rolled over from the 2019-20 school year, except for those that went through the request to reconsider process last year and improved their plan types.
Final ratings for districts and schools that do not participate in the request to reconsider process will be adopted by the State Board of Education in November. The ratings for the remaining schools and districts will be adopted by the state board in December.
Educator Effectiveness Metrics, or performance reports for Colorado educators, were recently released for the 2020-21 school year—the most recent year of statistics available due to the time it takes districts to complete and submit evaluation data.
CDE did not collect 2019-20 evaluation ratings because of the governor’s temporary suspension of the state law requiring performance evaluations, an impact of COVID-19.
A total of four metrics were released this year showing how teachers and principals are doing as a group at the school, district and state levels. The data for teachers and principals are available in EducatorView, an interactive online dashboard. Follow these instructions to access the metrics for teachers in specific schools and teachers and principals in specific districts (PDF).
The four Educator Effectiveness Metrics include:
- Effectiveness Ratings: This metric reports on the overall educator effectiveness ratings and ranges from Highly Effective and Effective to Partially Effective and Ineffective.
- Quality Standards: This metric reports on the standard level ratings that are used to calculate the overall effectiveness rating for teachers and principals. For example, the metric looks at ratings on how well teachers know the content, whether they establish good learning environments and measures of their students’ learning.
- Alignment: Reports on the relationship between educator performance on the state Quality Standards 1-4 for teachers and 1-6 for principals and student performance as captured by the Measures of Student Learning, previously referred to as Quality Standard 6 for teachers and 7 for principals.
- Gap Analysis: Reports the equitable distribution of educators rated effective or higher as it relates to student demographic characteristics.
In 2010, Colorado lawmakers sought to improve the state’s educational system by pinpointing an essential quality of successful schools – having excellent teachers in every classroom and excellent principals in every building.
To meet this goal, the state has focused on developing and supporting evaluation systems that give educators thoughtful, useful feedback on their instruction every year in a thorough and fair manner. Data from those evaluations are submitted to the state and compiled to produce the Educator Effectiveness Metrics, which give schools and districts information that can be useful for continual improvement. The metrics are based on evaluations of professional practice and measures of student learning.
The information in the metrics will feature only state-level, district-level and school-level data and will be published only for groups of five or more educators to protect privacy. Individual educators will not be identified. For a detailed look into the process and system, visit the EE Metrics webpage.
At its most recent meeting, the Colorado State Board of Education advanced proposed academic standards in personal financial literacy. Final approval of these standards will be considered, along with all other recommended revisions to the social studies standards, by the end of this year.
Personal financial literacy standards are required per statute, and House Bill 21-1200 added additional topics for inclusion in the high school standards. The purpose is to help high school students learn how to assess the cost of obtaining a postsecondary degree or credential by understanding funding options for higher education, student loan repayment processes, and the purpose of both state and federal student aid applications. These standards are also meant to prepare students to evaluate potential career earnings, learn how to save for retirement, manage credit, and prepare for homeownership and mortgages.
Next month, the board will review proposed media literacy and civics standards required by House Bill 21-1103 and Senate Bill 21-067, respectively. Then, in November, the board will likely conclude its review of the social studies standards with recommendations from the History, Culture, Social Contributions and Civil Government in Education Commission created by House Bill 19-1192. Once each legislated area is reviewed and advanced, the board will vote on the entirety of the social studies standards in either November or December. The board is required to revise approximately one-third of all standards content areas beginning in 2022 and an additional one-third every two years after.
Educator Talent offices have moved
Educator Talent offices are now located on the second floor of 1525 Sherman St. in Denver. Although the office location has changed, mail will still be received at the main CDE State Office Building at 201 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203.
For your convenience, licensing support is still available remotely:
- Technical assistance and support: Fill out this online form or call 877-314-1412.
- Questions about educator preparation or licensure requirements: Email email@example.com or call 303-866-6628 between 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Monday – Thursday.
Please note that in-person appointments are unavailable at this time.
A diverse teaching workforce can help change narratives around race and culture and improve education for all students – especially students of color. TEACH.org and TEACH Colorado recognize that when students have teachers who reflect their ethnic identity, there are many benefits – from higher math and reading scores to higher college attendance and graduation rates.
To help attract, retain and support a diverse group of educators, TEACH Colorado has created a webpage with resources dedicated to helping future and current Hispanic and Latinx teachers for support and growth.
- A Colorado experiment aims to expand the teacher pipeline and stem turnover Chalkbeat, Sept. 27
- The teachers who aren't coming back to school this year Chalkbeat, Sept. 6
- $250 in school supplies donated to 70 teachers 9News, Sept. 15
- What teachers of color say will actually work to diversify the profession Education Week, Sept. 20
Available Funding for Educators in Additional Shortage Areas
Qualified applicants may receive up to $10,000 in financial assistance from the Educator Recruitment and Retention Program to help pay for their educator preparation program fees if they commit to teaching in a shortage area for three years. These shortage areas have been expanded for the 2022-23 school year.